BASTARDS HAD THE WHOLE HILL MINED
(note: Dominic Albanese is a Facebook friend of mine and I liked his book. I’ve never written a review that was otherwise.)
BASTARDS HAD THE WHOLE HILL MINED is not an easy read. It should be, given how plain the language is, but the subject matter and the poet’s voice make it a very rough ride. Not as rough, of course, as fighting in the Vietnam War, which is what this collection is about. As for the poet’s voice, it is that of a raconteur with a powerful flair for vernacular. To quickly become fluent in Albanese is time well spent.
From FIFTY YEARS AGO
gun oil, fish sauce, blood, creosote, “l’odeur de la papaya verte”
Asia of the jungle, Asia of the mountains, Asia of the
such a long time ago, yesterday to me
Bursts of black anger or hilarity share the page with lamentations,
like this line from what is I think my favorite poem in the collection,
weeping wondering calling on the dusty bones
to remember me and our times
In 1964, having already left Mark Twain Junior High on Coney Island and gotten into trouble, a big kid found himself enlisted in the US Armed Forces. He was 16 but as far as the Military knew, he was 17. Imagine the meeting, on a bus from basic training to begin jump school, between Dominic Albanese and John G. Madison, then 19. By the time their Special Forces Training was done and they shipped out, Monk and Maddy were tight.
From THROW BACK THURSDAY
two grizzled 40some year ole Master Sargent s
Maddy n me not 40 between us
in years but armed to the teeth
In verdant green and black and white, we are unsettled into foreign territory, with Dominic Albanese as our guide. Not that he paints himself as a hero.
From MADDY AND ME:
(I was young, scared, over my
Virgil Gray…n…some other Old timers would allow me
slack as long as when the shit hit I fired back
but it’s clear that there are other soldiers, particularly Maddy, who are his personal heroes and that those who survived carried some seriously scary demons home to the USA.
So, in the final poem, MAYDAY, when I read this simple line:
I am glad to be here
it makes me want to weep with relief.
Mr. Albanese has said, “All writers are poets. Poets are just lazy writers,” but he has also said, “Why take 400 pages to say something I can say on one page?”
His stream-of-consciousness style and his ear for the vernacular took me on one unsettling journey after another, one page after another. I’ve been back and forth in space and time with Monk and Maddy and I understand, better, the tragedy of “The American War.”
Why does a poem that starts:
…in jungle grunt through bush
wading streams small river
leeches bugs snakes
never mind around a corner
some green hat NVA would love to kill ya…
have the title THE FUNNY OF WAR?
It’s easy enough to find out!
This volume of poetry is a hard-won grace, fifty years in the making. The relevance of the book is not limited to Veterans, although BASTARDS matters to a lot of them. It is ultimately the tale of a big, terrified kid and his best pal, miraculously surviving a stupid bloodbath only to discover that the stupid bloodbath sloshes in their boots with every step they take.
into the tropic magic, into the terror
laughing, burp guns, grease guns, grenade launchers,
large bore pistols
rucksacks full of dried fish and rice, wearing car-tire
acting like real soldiers, only playin war
Poor Monk. There’s a hell of a heart beating inside that big, scared lug and lucky for us, it is the heart of a fine poet.
BASTARDS HAD THE WHOLE HILL MINED
by Dominic Albanese
published by Seb Doubinsky, Les Editions du Zaporogue
- Madeline Moore
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Wild Card, 2006. Winner of "best oral sex scene" - Scarlet Magazine. Amanda's Young Men, 2009. Excerpted in Scarlet Magazine; Juicy Bits. Sarah's Education, 2009. Hit the #1 spots on Amazon.co.uk adult fiction & adult romance best seller lists. Jade Magazine bestowed the best cover art, 2009 award on Sarah's Education. "Get Up, Stand Up!" which appeared in The Cougar Book (Logical-Lust) won me the title 'Story Teller of the Year 2011' at The Erotic Awards, London, UK. Sarah's Education took the #3 spot on a list of the 30 most titillating titles of all time, as reported in English Daily Mail ;Female; Nov. 12, 2012. Debutante, a petite novel for e-publisher Imprint Mischief, (Harper-Collins) pubbed in 2012. I tutor writing students and am a member of the WGC. D.M. Thomas said: Madeline Moore writes great sex without metaphor and that's not easy to do. Kris Saknussemm said: You're a good egg, Madeline Moore. I am a good egg who writes great sex without metaphor! Yippee!